The Shipwreck of Breconshire
Sitting at the Front Bar...
Don't worry...you haven't had one cocktail over the line. You did see something in the water in front of the Ocean Grill. But, no, it wasn't a whale passing by. It's a shipwreck. Ten short years ago, you could see the boiler of the ship sitting high above the waves. But salt water and metal don't mix well, and the boiler finally surrendered to corrosion and rests closer to the ocean floor. Committed divers still make their way out there every Fourth of July to fly the American flag from its position, and Vero Beach locals know exactly where to look to find the now hidden remains of the British steamer that went down over 100 years ago. Being a historic site, we thought you might appreciate this page of history....one landmark saluting another. Enjoy!
The Story of the British Steamship Breconshire
“Did you see that out there?”
An iron screw steamer, built in 1884, the Breconshire was a schooner-rigged ship with compound engines of 350 horsepower complementing her sail power. She was 300 feet in length and 37 feet in breadth.
A man by the name of Robert Taylor, who possessed a Master’s Certificate, commanded the ship’s crew of 24 men. Edwin H. Curling, was the Second Officer.
During her last voyage, the Breconshire sailed from England to various Mediterranean ports and then on to New York. In the spring of 1894, she was ordered to proceed to Tampa to pick up an unknown cargo.
Taylor, unfamiliar with Florida’s waters, ordered charts of the coast of the state. The package of charts, however, failed to include the Florida coast for about 20 miles south of Cape Canaveral. This information was unbeknownst to Taylor when they set out because he did not bother to open the package until three days after they were at sea.
The Breconshire left New York on April 25, 1894, less than five days later, she was lost.
The night of April 29 was calm and clear when Taylor set his course and ordered, “I am to be called at 1 a.m.” He then went below.
At midnight the Second Officer, Curling, took charge. He instructed his early morning crew to keep a sharp lookout for land on the starboard. Land was seen as a “dark streak” on the water, but each man on lookout attributed it to a morning breeze until it mistakenly developed into land.
At 1:45 a.m., Curling sighted land on the starboard beam and estimated that the distance was four to five miles. Unaware of his danger, he continued his course.
A few minutes later, the Breconshire hit a reef and headed for the bottom where it still rests a quarter mile in front of the Ocean Grill dining room. At low tide, a watchful eye can still see the bow of the ship peeking out from below the surf.
The entire crew managed to escape from the sinking vessel in the ship’s boats and after being sheltered in a nearby Coast Guard station for three days, they returned to London.
The ordeal was not ended for the Master and his Second Officer, however. Back in London they faced Her Majesty’s Justices of the Peace who determined that the casualty was primarily in negligence on the part of the officers. The courts suspended their Certificates for six months.
The value of the Breconshire was listed at $75,000.
Written by Mary Beth Herzog. Reprinted courtesy of the Press Journal, Sunday, September 1, 1974.